Planks are a super efficient way to work all of your major muscle groups. When you plank your arms fire to hold up your body weight, your legs engage to hold straight, and your abdominals must draw in and brace to support a lengthened spine. Planks are a part of all sorts of group exercise classes, from Body Pump to barre to yoga to bootcamp. Mastering the plank is a constant process and you never truly arrive. There is always a way to engage your muscles more deeply into the move or challenge your stability by adding movement. Here are a few plank variations to work on from anywhere – your house, the park, or the gym! Try holding each pose for 20 – 30 seconds and work your way up to 2 or 3 minutes of each. Talk about a multitasking move!
Variation #1: triceps engagement – to work deeper into the muscles in the back of your arm, bend your elbows and point them back behind you, keeping them close to your sides. Move slowly from your plank to your elbow bend and back up. Hold the elbow bend longer for more challenge, keeping your belly button drawn up and braced to prevent any tension in your lower back.
Variation #2: side arm lifts – when you lift your arm to the side, your torso wants to rotate to the side too. Challenge your core stability by only moving the arm, but keeping your hips and shoulders squared towards the ground. Slowly move the arm up and down, maintaining alignment and balance as you move.
Variation #3: weight shifts – come forward on to your tippy toes, pressing your chest through to the front, then press your heels back to come back through the center. Keep rocking forward and backwards, fighting not to lift your hips up as you move.
Variation #4: knee cross overs – pull your knee across your body towards the opposite shoulder, alternating legs as you go. Twist your hips slightly across but don’t let your butt go up in the air. Engage your obliques as you bring your leg forward and through.
Variation #5: side planks – press one hand firmly to the ground and lift the other straight up. Lift your hips up away from the ground. To add movement here, simply raise and lower your hips away from the ground, challenging the side of your core which is closest to the ground.
There are hundreds of plank variations available for all fitness levels and abilities. Get creative and experiment with different movement patterns, moving your arms and legs to challenge your balance and core strength. Feel and appreciate the strength of your muscles to hold you up and try to get more and more engagement of all of your muscles each time. Let me know if you have a favorite plank variation that I missed! Until next time, sign up to receive my weekly newsletter and blog post updates by clicking on the link to the upper right of this post.